Announcing the Civil Society Foresight Observatory
A new project to show a plurality of possible futures, rooted in communities not board rooms.
Very often, the people who get to tell the most plausible and the most listened to stories about the future — the people who get to set the tone and the parameters for others’ expectations — are the ones with the most traditional power. The Civil Society Foresight Observatory is an experiment in doing that differently.
I’m really excited that Careful Industries will be working with the Innovation, Policy and Practice team at the National Lottery Community Fund for the next six months to develop the Civil Society Foresight Observatory — a new piece of shared infrastructure for civil society.
The aim of the Observatory is to weave together formal foresight practices with other lived and learned experience to create a new foresight commons. We want to show a plurality of possible futures that are rooted in communities not board rooms, and bring them to life in accessible ways that can be used and reused by funders and civil society organisations. The ambition of this first stage is to create a resource that can power collective intelligence and investment from funders, while also inspiring more strategic leaps in those working to shape the future.
Anna Williams is joining Careful Industries as Research Lead for the Foresight Observatory, working with Design Researcher Dominique Barron to deliver the project. This is an experiment, so the path might change as we go, but the plan is to start with a literature review and a gap analysis, so we can understand more about what other foresight work is happening in this space, which areas are over-saturated, and which aren’t being covered. While we’re doing that, we’ll recruit a panel of contributors from across the UK and work with them to turn their more organic foresight into the beginnings of a Civil Society Foresight Framework. In the second half of the project we’ll convene expert stakeholders from a range of disciplines to come and stress test the work we’re doing. And throughout the project, we aim to keep publishing and sharing.
Being open is an important part of the work. Some of the most influential foresight work in the UK is driven by either the market or the state, and much of it doesn’t take place in public. This project is an attempt to galvanise a collective opportunity for civil society to show and share its wisdom, and influence better outcomes for more people. And as we (hopefully) approach a post-pandemic world, it’s an excellent time to show what else might be possible.
The Foresight Observatory is being seeded by The National Lottery Community Fund, with a growing number of other funders as part of the steering group; over time we hope it becomes a shared investment in knowledge infrastructure, useful to many and built together, showing many possible futures.
Careful Industries’ mission is to make sure more people have the chance to shape, inform and create new technologies: more equal visions of the future are a vital part of that, because better and more equitable technologies will only come about if there is a radically more inclusive approach to who gets to invest in them, build them and use them. This doesn’t mean we’ll be focussing on technically mediated futures; the focus of this work will be on people, communities, and their potential.
The future belongs to all of us: the aim of this project is to help more people shape it, in ways that benefit us beyond the market and the state.